For the fleet manager wearing many hats, there often seems to be an unending list of hurdles to navigate and pressures to manage. A 2021 survey by Vimcar found that 33% of fleet managers still use spreadsheets to manage their operations, while others still use pen and paper, both of which can be cumbersome and time-consuming, and allows room for manual errors.
So how can today’s fleet manager stay on top of it all? Several solutions and many partners exist to help ease the burden, lower costs, and streamline operations, allowing fleets to make data-driven decisions.
“In today’s environment, fleet managers get more and more things put on their plate when it comes to safety, managing expenses, planning for EVs, and strategizing the future,” said Jim Perkins, director of fleet solutions at Shell Fleet Solutions. “They’ve got immense amounts of information, and it takes a lot of time and energy to be able to decipher what they need to do with that information That’s where tools and software can really help them manage their business more efficiently.”
Work Your Partnerships
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. You’re most likely already using — and spending money on — a fleet management company (FMC), safety training company, and telematics provider. Think about what other tasks can be outsourced by leveraging additional relationships. It’s often worth it to have other folks do a job to free up your own time.
“Who are your partners? Who are your suppliers? Are you getting everything from them that they offer?” Perkins asked. “If not, ask them for help ask them for support! And if they’re not willing to give it to you, we’ll give you the support. I think that’s just the key thing: Figure out what’s available to you use it, because that’s going to save you time. You may have to do some upfront learning, but once you start using something, it makes your life a lot easier.”
Don’t forget the power of having strong relationships with other fleets to ask questions and share best practices with your peers! There’s a real power in crowdsourced learning.
As governmental mandates creep closer and the industry shifts more and more toward electric vehicles, fleets must be ready to shift into the new electrified era. An FMC can help with the transition and strategy to meet an organization’s goals and plan for infrastructure, too.
Cross Train Your Staff
When any organization is faced with an unexpected gap in staff or knowledge, efforts made upfront saves time and scrambling later. When possible, make sure employees are cross trained on key duties and processes.
Providing opportunities and “growing your own” can make room for promotions rather than external hiring, which takes up more budget and time spent training. And, making efforts to keep morale high and culture strong means you’ll be less likely to need to replace top performers or skilled workers in the first place.
Fuel Management & Data Visualization
As fuel is 40% of a typical fleet’s operational cost, it’s one of the most obvious places to look for savings and efficiencies.
When paper receipts are removed from the equation, the use of fuel cards can save both money and time. Many fuel cards come with a digital platform to track expenditures and set spending limits, meaning less paperwork.
New technologies allow reporting programs — or fuel management programs — to turn data into visual representations. For Shell, that tableau-based program is called Clear View. “When you see a pie chart of your expenses, or you see a trend line of your cost of fuel, it tells a huge story,” Perkins said.
Sasha Arasteh, mobility services manager for Shell Fleet Solutions, recommends making sure that whatever provider you use, get someone to sit down with you and go over how to use the program and interpret the data as part of customer onboarding or training.
Another option for fuel management: Mobile fueling brings the gas station to you and eliminates the need for fill-ups before or after a shift. And digital platforms help reconcile reports on fuel expenditures, leading to less paperwork. Mobile fueling can also increase route capacity, reduce downtime, lower emissions, remove the need for fuel cards, decrease the chance of fraud, and saves on infrastructure.
Empowering Drivers with Telematics Data
We all likely know that telematics allows easy tracking and access to vehicle and driver data that can be used to optimize operations. This not only assists with job costing, time keeping, compliance, and resource allocation, but it can also increase safety by reducing collisions, liability, and distracted driving.
Like fuel data, it’s also important to turn telematics information into actionable insights. “If we look at something like Shell telematics [which uses a Geotab device], it provides a vast amount of data, and the data is wonderful, but if you don’t have a way to digest that data in a meaningful way, then it’s useless to a fleet,” Arasteh said. “With so many competing priorities and to-do lists, you really have to make it feel tangible.”
When telematics uses a driver safety scorecard, which typically is a tool for driver coaching, Arasteh says they’ve actually seen it make drivers feel empowered and created a healthy competitive environment to have the best scores. Because the data is being shared with them, they’re more alert and attuned to their behavior on the road, and fewer driver interventions are needed, saving even more time.
Preventive maintenance helps stop vehicle issues before they arise, keeping cars in service longer and avoiding additional paperwork, not to mention saving both time and money as costs have recently seen double-digit increases.
Fleet maintenance programs can allow you to schedule repairs from your device and receive notifications of service needs or invoices without having to pick up the phone. Policies can also be built into the system to auto-approve chargers under a certain dollar amount and send text messages for charges above that. Perkins mentioned that some programs even have customer service reps act as advocates, on hand to prevent overcharging, which saves fleet managers time negotiating pricing.
“In the maintenance space where fleet managers are trying to keep track of when a vehicle last got an oil change, for example, and they’re keeping track of it on a spreadsheet, leveraging a tool like Shell Maintenance Hub or a similar type of application alleviates some of that manual burden and can reduce some of the administrative time involved, because now I have a handy portal that can not only store all that information, but can extract reporting to start making data-driven, insightful decisions versus cobbling together spreadsheets,” Arasteh explained.
“We’ve done pilots and enrolled customers who have said, ‘OK, let’s see if you can save me five administrative hours a week, or 10 hours a week,’ and then that's how we can accomplish that,” Arasteh added.
The ROI of Time
Having awareness of just how much time is spent on certain tasks is one way to start looking for where to create efficiencies. When equating salary to how long it takes to do the tasks required in your day, you can calculate the cost of time, which then can be used to determine a budget for systems and programs to manage tasks that take back your time. And isn’t that time better spent on strategic work than entering data into a spreadsheet anyway?